Notebook: Horn previews 2011-2012 campaign

Head men's basketball coach Darrin Horn gave fans a preview of the upcoming season as Gamecock basketball looks to move past a rocky offseason and build success with a youthful squad this year. Despite a lack of experience on the team, Horn was fired up about getting things started with his team.

When the South Carolina men's basketball team suits up for their first contest on November 3rd, it will be a welcome relief from the storm clouds that gathered over the program following last year's disappointing 14-16 overall record.

After winning just five conference games, Coach Horn was already facing heavy criticism before the departure of four players, one of which was the temporary absence of point guard Bruce Ellington to the football team.

However, all of that was forgotten on October 11th, when Horn spoke with the media and relayed his excitement for his current team.

"I feel like I say this every year, but it's a great time of the year," said Horn. "It's a time when literally you're a few days away from where you can get out on the court and get to work and start the process with the new team. Now we're looking forward to moving forward and getting to this year's team. This is a team that if you look at our personnel, as a coach, I'm excited because we have some nice pieces."

Ellington answers

One of the subjects on which Horn faced the most criticism was the departure of point guard Bruce Ellington to the football team, despite his pledge to return after the football season was over.

While Ellington's absence will be magnified in the early part of the season, Horn said that he is very proud of what his star has done on the gridiron and is fired up about what he can contribute on the hardwood this year.

"I'm unbelievably proud of Bruce Ellington," said Horn. "I think the job he's doing is outstanding. I don't think anyone's cheering harder for that kid than I am, other than his mom and brother. I teased him with a text that it took him long enough to score, but we're cheering for him and we're pulling for him. We look forward to getting him back whenever that is."

Much has been made of when and where Ellington will be able to come back and contribute, but Horn is taking a more laid back approach. He said that while he is not sure if Ellington's transition back to basketball will be flawless, having a talent of his magnitude returning will be a huge boost.

"When he comes back we'll just have to see how that goes. Hopefully it will be a seamless transition, he'll flow into things and it will be great. I don't think anyone knows that. It will be unfair of anybody to put that expectation on him."

Versatile lineup big for USC

With yet another young team taking the court for South Carolina, one of its big advantages this year could be to simply play to its strengths. Horn noted that this could be using his team's athleticism no matter the combination of positions or sizes on the court.

"There may be times we throw our five best players out there regardless of position," said Horn. "There may be times we go really small with a terrific offensive lineup. There may be times when we go big. Who knows with Damontre Harris, Anthony Gill, R.J. Slawson, Malik Cooke and Lakeem Jackson, that's a huge athletic lineup. Will that ever happen? I don't know, but those are the things that are exciting about this team."

Horn also assured the fans that his team would bring an exciting brand of basketball to the court this year, and hopefully produce a lot of wins along the way.

"We have some great versatility," added Horn. "We have guys that play multiple positions or do multiple things. We have guys that can step out and do perimeter things. We have guys that can play near the basket. At this point, they're showing an unbelievable work ethic, attitude and camaraderie among the guys. It's a team that obviously isn't the most experienced or the biggest, but it's going to be a team of fighters and (one) I'll have a lot of fun coaching and our fans will enjoy watching."

Will Gamecocks play fast?

While many of Darrin Horn's teams have been known for a fast and upbeat style of play, the coach said that this year would a major emphasis to his team would be putting them in the best position for success.

Horn said that every year he adjusts his system accordingly, and would do the same this season. But he said focusing on success rather than sticking to one certain system is his biggest theme this year.

"The big thing with the system, and I've said this from day one since I got here, our system really is most about how we want to play the game. Every year we run some different plays. Every year we tweak some things. Will we see some of that this year? Sure. We do that every year because that's what you do. Ultimately we have to do what's best with our personnel to put us in the best position to win the game."

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